Last Friday, the case of Michael Springer QC versus Barbados Bar Association came on for hearing. BU now reports on what transpired.
Mr Springer QC has always been a member of the BA, but his payment of dues have been without VAT and accepted and receipts issued to Mr Springer by the BA. In 2015, Mr Springer tendered his payment by cheque to the BA, without VAT, which was presented for payment and paid into the BA. Approximately 6 months later, Mr Springer received a cheque from the BA purporting to be the refund of his fees on the basis that the BA could not accept his payment and membership without VAT. Mr Springer’s name has been removed from the BA’s list of members. Mr Springer served the BA with a pre-action protocol letter, advising that if they did not reverse their position, he would be commencing legal proceedings. As usual, at the start of this year, Mr Springer tendered his payment to the BA minus VAT, payment that the BA refused to accept. Mr Springer filed legal proceedings against the BA.
Mr Vernon Smith QC appeared for Mr Springer and Ms Cecily Chase QC appeared for the BA.
Mr Smith submitted to the Court that the BA had not filed a defence in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules and therefore did not have the right to make any submissions. Ms Chase advised the Court that this was due to a failure on her part and asked for indulgence and leave to file a defence and Mr Smith agreed to this and it was ordered that Ms Chase would be given latitude to file a defence.
Mr Smith asked for his costs of the appearance in any event. The Court ordered that the BA pay Mr Smith’s costs no later than this Thursday.
Mr Smith submitted that the BA had failed to produce to the Court and Mr Springer a resolution by two thirds of its membership authorising that the action be defended in accordance with the BA’s Rules, without which the BA lacks the authority to pay Mr Smith’s costs. The Court ordered that by this coming Thursday the BA must produce such a resolution.
BU has reported that Mr Smith himself has sued the BA on essentially the same subject matter and this case is pending. Mr Smith’s case also ties in to his action against Marston Gibson. Smith vs Gibson was adjourned to Monday 11 April and commences hearing on that date, provided the Registrar has set it down – and if she has not, she will have provided grounds for Mr Smith to bring proceedings against her and to make a formal complaint to the Prime Minister, as the scheduling of hearings is the province of Gibson as Chief Justice and a failure to set down an adjourned matter will be seen as an abuse of power, since Gibson is himself the defendant. It is further noted that Gibson has not filed a defence.
BU has not been able to obtain the latest copy of the Official Gazette. The Registrar has a statutory duty to advertise the names of all attorneys to whom practicing certificates have been issued. It will be recalled that last year the Registrar barely missed being sued in a class action by attorneys who opt either not to pay VAT on their BA dues, or simply not to be members of the BA, when the Registrar omitted their names from the list in the Official Gazette of names of attorneys to whom practicing certificates had been issued. So we now wait to see if the Registrar has carried out her statutory duty – or not.
It has been observed that Mr Barry Gale QC, who seems to have set this whole ball rolling when he was president of the BA, appears to be doing his best to distance himself from anything to do with the administration of the BA.